April 20, 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man spit tobacco juice into the face of actress Jane Fonda after waiting in line to have her sign her new book, police said.
The man ran off but was quickly caught by police Tuesday night and charged with disorderly conduct.
Fonda has been on tour and doing interviews to promote her just-published memoir, "My Life So Far." The thrice-married, two-time Academy Award winner covers a wide array of topics, including her 1972 visit to Hanoi to protest the Vietnam War, during which she was photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She has apologized for that photo, but not for opposing the war.
Capt. Rich Lockhart of the Kansas City Police Department said that although Fonda did not want to press charges against Michael A. Smith, 54, of Kansas City, he was arrested on a municipal charge of disorderly conduct after off-duty officers caught him just outside Unity Temple, where Fonda was signing books.
Lockhart said Smith was released on bond late Tuesday night and is due to appear in municipal court on May 27.
Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The Kansas City Star on Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her protests against the war were unforgivable. He said he normally does not chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.
"I consider it a debt of honor," he told The Star for a story on its Web site, www.kansascity.com. "She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."
Fonda drew a crowd of about 900 for her appearance, said Vivian Jennings, whose Rainy Day Books of suburban Fairway, Kan., sponsored the event at Unity Temple in Kansas City. Fonda, 67, spoke for about 15 minutes, answered questions for another 15, then began signing copies of her book.
Jennings said Fonda received a standing ovation when she came out and when she finished speaking. Alan Tilson, one of those who had his book signed but left before the incident, said the crowd was very "warm and supportive" to Fonda and he was surprised to learn what had happened.
Jennings said the actress never got up from her seat and continued autographing books after the tobacco juice was wiped off.
"The important thing is that she was so calm and so gracious about it," Jennings said of Fonda. "She was wonderful."
Jennings said that the man had a book to which the name "Jody" had been affixed as he approached to have it autographed. She said that when Fonda got the book, she looked up and said, "You're not Jody."
"At that moment, he turned his head quickly and spit a trail of tobacco juice," Jennings said. "He immediately jumped off the stage and started running down the aisle."
Fonda, who flew to Minneapolis Wednesday for another appearance on the book tour she began April 5, issued a statement through Jynne Martin of Random House, which published her book.
"In spite of the incident, my experience in Kansas City was wonderful and I thank all the warm and supportive people, including so many veterans, who came to welcome me last night," Fonda said.